The Way of the Word: Psalm One Hundred and Forty-Third – Reflective Reading.
Monsignor Joji Vadakara, Vatican City
The one hundred and forty-third psalm also explains one of the basic principles of religious belief in the mind of the Old Testament, namely that God listens to the prayers of the believer who calls on him. In this psalm we see David asking God for help in his distress. As well as being a personal lament, it is one of the seven penitential psalms, such as Psalms 102 and 130. Even as he seeks protection and justice from God, David is aware of the evil within him. Presenting himself as a servant of God, the psalmist seeks comfort from Yahweh. David pleads with God for deliverance from enemies that could even lead to his death.
A unique God
Dafydd confesses his insignificance before God in the very first verses of the Psalm. Dafydd remembers that he is not righteous, but God is righteous and faithful to help him. He says in the second verse, “Do not bring this servant to judgment” because he knows he is a sinner who has no right to stand before God. Knowing that salvation is God’s gift, he asks God for help. By admitting that no one alive, including himself, is righteous before God, he recognizes that God’s mercy is man’s only right.
Lives destroyed by the enemy
In verses three and four of the Psalm, David tells God about the state of his life. He laments that he lives as a victim of bad men, that they have destroyed his life, his soul. His condition is similar to that of someone who is trampled on the ground. The fourth verse, “I am distressed; my heart trembles,” gives us an idea of the depth of his pain. Dafydd prayed to God not because he was depressed, but because of the pain caused by other people. He had to go into hiding to escape from Saul. His son Absalom has been deposed. Therefore, Dafydd mourns before God because of the pain that the weight of the enemy’s violence has caused in his life.
Acts of a righteous God
In verses 5 and 6, David records the powerful interventions that God has made in history and in his life. God has been a hand of protection in the lives of the righteous and the innocent. David’s mind must have been reminded of how God had intervened at times of innocence in his own life. Dafydd thinks more about God’s actions than about his own life and actions. Memories of those peaceful times lead the psalmist through moments of suffering to hope and trust in God rather than sadness. That is why, with a spirit of prayer, he lays his issues before God, begging for God’s intervention; He thirsts for God.
A powerful prayer
Verses seven to nine of the Psalm describe Dafydd’s powerful and intense prayer of lamentation. Dafydd asks God to listen to the cry of his broken life. Even men who are convinced that God saves according to his plans, like David, “Answer quickly!” lamenting that it is in front of the severity of their suffering. Dafydd prays that he will not hide his face from God because he experienced the joy of living before him as a vessel of God’s favor.
Like all righteous people who have lived to please God, the psalmist wants to recognize God’s voice in the morning and organize his life accordingly. According to that voice, Dafydd asks for the grace to walk with his eyes raised to the presence of God, knowing the ways he should walk. David also admits his mistakes in these lines. He has acted according to his own desires and does not listen to the voice of God. He has deviated from the ways God was showing him.
Dafydd raised his heart to God with a request to free him from his enemies. He pleads not only for courage and protection from God, but also for deliverance from the enemy. “I have come to you for refuge” is also a beautiful statement of faith. He desires the protection of God’s presence more than all other shelters. Lives that are extinguished before God in repentance will become more aware of their unworthiness and cling to God like a baby in a mother’s lap.
Guidance and protection
As we enter the last verses of the psalm, we hear the voice of Dafydd’s prayer for guidance and strong protection in his life. “Teach me to do Your will! For You are my God! Your good Spirit lead me on a straight path!” Dafydd prays out of realizing that a good God is teaching him to walk in the right way.
The psalmist wants the glory of God’s name and God’s justice even in his distress. “Lord, save my life for your name’s sake! Deliver me from misery through your justice!” The psalmist admits that if God’s mercy is with him, his life will be preserved, and he will be saved from all difficulties.
David, pleading with God to destroy and cut off his enemies, ends his lamentation by confessing before God the conviction that he is God’s servant. Acknowledging that vengeance belongs to God, he assumes the form of a servant before God, who is also his master. The master’s duty is to ensure the safety of his servant.
Psalm in life
This psalm is an invitation to raise thoughts of hope and raise hands to God for people who are unjust, persecuted by enemies, and whose dignity of life is destroyed by others. But at the same time, it is also an invitation to know the joy of returning to all human beings who make mistakes, who do not fulfill God’s will, and walk away from His ways. Let’s make this psalm a prayer for us to walk close to God with good conviction, to rely more on God in our failures and shortcomings, and to receive new life in his mercy. May God take care of our lives for the sake of His name and justice, may we be able to listen to God’s sweet voice every morning to live according to God’s will and live with our eyes fixed on him. May God protect us like a strong fortress, like the love of a mother’s bosom.